- The health benefits of swimming can include cardiovascular fitness, stress relief, and a reduced risk of high blood pressure and diabetes.
- Swimming is especially great for stress relief because the strokes you take involve rhythmic breathing that can trigger the part of your nervous system that’s responsible for rest and relaxation.
- Swimming is also a great way to burn calories. Vigorous strokes like the butterfly can burn 400 calories every 30 minutes.
- This article was medically reviewed by Joey Thurman, CSCS, CPT, FNS, a Chicago-based fitness expert and MYX Fitness coach.
- Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.
Along with being fun, swimming is an aerobic exercise that can reduce the risk of chronic illnesses like high blood pressure and diabetes. Plus, swimming offers unique workout payoffs of its own. Here are six ways swimming can improve your health.
1. Swimming is a full-body workout
You use big segments of both your upper and lower body when you swim, says Brian Wright, associate professor of kinesiology at DePauw University. Different strokes work for different muscle groups, and mixing them up will give you a well-rounded workout. Here are some examples:
- Freestyle or crawl stroke, emphasizes shoulder and chest muscles and includes a kick that engages your thighs and rear as well.
- Backstroke works posterior shoulder muscles and the upper back, which promotes good posture.
- Breaststroke exercises the biceps, triceps, pecs, lats, deltoids, and inner thighs.
2. Swimming torches calories
Moving all of those muscles requires a lot of energy, and that burns a lot of calories in return. The more vigorous the workout, the more calories you burn.
Leisurely swimming, for example, burns around 220 calories every 30 minutes in a 155-pound person. Whereas, more vigorous strokes like butterfly have been clocked at burning more than 400 calories every 30 minutes.
Though, the number of calories burned also depends on how skilled you are as a swimmer.
“A good swimmer is going to move through the water effortlessly, whereas somebody who doesn’t swim well is going to expend many more calories,” says Lori Sherlock, associate professor of exercise physiology at West Virginia University, who coordinates the school’s aquatic therapy program.
3. Swimming improves cardiovascular health
The American Heart Association suggests two and a half hours per week of moderate-intensity physical activity for optimal health. Swimming can provide as good of a workout as land-based activities like biking, walking, or a dance class.
Another factor is hydrostatic pressure, which is the force a fluid exerts on an object. This pressure of water on the body pushes blood to the heart and improves circulation. The deeper you are submerged, the greater the pressure.
To assess how much of a workout you’re getting, Sherlock suggests using the perceived exertion scale, which measures body signals like muscle fatigue. Normally…